Dead Alive (Braindead) (1992)

dead alive poster 1992 movie peter jackson
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 9/10

Crazy story, crazy visuals, over-the-top action/horror/comedy/romance

Maybe too much for some viewers

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Dead Alive (Braindead)

Studio:  WingNut Films

Genre(s):  Horror/Comedy/Romance/B-Movie

Release Date(s):  August 13, 1992

MPAA Rating:  Unrated

dead alive braindead sumatran rat monkey

Sumatran Rat Monkeys don’t make very good pets…

A rare Sumatran Rat-Monkey is brought to the Wellington Zoo in New Zealand against the warns of the natives.  When a momma’s boy named Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) begins dating Paquita (Diana Peñalver, his mother (Elizabeth Moody) will not have it.  Lionel’s mother is accidentally bitten by the Rat-Monkey, and Lionel finds himself babysitting a zombie.  As the zombie plague begins to spread, Lionel discovers he has his hands full.  Will the zombies be stopped and can he ever be reunited with Paquita?

Directed by Peter Jackson, Dead Alive (also called Braindead) is a New Zealand zombie horror comedy.  The extreme gore also resulted in multiple edits and versions, but the film has gained a cult following over the years with Peter Jackson’s success.

I heard about Dead Alive around the time Heavenly Creatures was released.  Bad Taste was popular at my high school when it had come out, but the pre-Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson stuff largely was undiscovered.  Renting Dead Alive with friends, we laughed all the way through it and like Evil Dead 2:  Dead by Dawn, the horror and insanity of the movie is what makes it entertaining.

dead alive i kick ass for the lord kung fu priest

“I kick ass for the Lord!!!”

Dead Alive is a crazy movie.  It would be easy to call it a horror movie since it is about zombies but it really is more of a comedy and a mash-up of many genres.  There are a ton of comedic moments.  It is in the same vein as Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness but both came out in the fall of 1992 so Raimi and Jackson must think alike (I’m sure Evil Dead II was some influence on this film).  The movie also plays heavily on melodrama by making the relationship between Lionel and Paquita so unrealistic and soapy that it is crunchy.  This weird combo of genres does actually work when blended together.  It does force the viewer to go with it however and that could be pretty hard sell for many considering the amount of gore and blood.

Dead Alive is one of the goriest movies I have ever seen.  When the blood and guts starts flying it, becomes one of the biggest bloodbaths in a movie.  Despite all the guts, it is still tongue-in-cheek.  Even the most gruesome scenes are played for laughs a lot like Peter Jackson’s other films around this time such as in Meet the FeeblesDead Alive just goes so over-the-top that you can tell it isn’t meant to be taken seriously (I mean he fights a giant version of his mother that attempts to consume him).  The effects are low budget (I love the stop-motion Rat-Monkey…who legend has it was the result monkeys raped by rats carried by explores), but that makes the humor even greater.

dead alive zombie baby braindead

This zombie baby later got an acting role in the Dawn of the Dead remake…he was typecast

The cast also is very low budget.  The stylized acting of the film helps Timothy Balme and Diana Peñalver navigate the challenges of being in a movie about funny killer zombies.  Elizabeth Moody as the overbearing mother, Stuart Devenie (aka Father McGruder the kung fu priest), and Ian Watkins as the red-neck uncle all eat their scenes up…which is appropriate for the movie.

If you want a crazy and different movie, check out Dead Alive.  It is one of those movies that you can watch with a group and all say “what the hell are we watching?”  It isn’t a movie for the faint of heart with all the gore and some real gross-out scenes, but you’ll never forget zombie sex, zombie babies, martial arts priests, and the terror of the Rat-Monkey. It sounds crazy when you spell it out, but it all makes sense in a weird way.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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